President's Pen 3-28-16 (Self Mastery)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! We begin with the “End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I hope you all enjoyed the blessing of celebrating the matchless love of our Savior this past Easter weekend.  We are blessed to celebrate it every day,  "And behold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all…", this important message is what we are called to declare.  Lift your voices high and serve the Savior with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.  Continue sharing the Hallelujah message and videos, this message goes beyond Easter.  

A topic that has been on my mind for the last several weeks is one that I hope will help us all in our effort to invite all to come unto Christ.  It is a critical aspect of our mortal experience and an area we must all work on if we want to become like the Savior.  In most cases it will determine whether or not we will be successful in this life and the life to come.  The topic can be labeled as self control, self dominion, self discipline, or self mastery and however you choose to describe it, it is ultimately about the test of agency and how we to use it.  In its simplest terms, self-mastery is doing those things we should do and not doing those things we should not do. It requires strength, willpower, and above all, the Savior's grace, enabling us to do things we otherwise can't do on our own.  

A few thoughts first to get your mind around the idea…  Plato said: “The first and best victory is to conquer self; to be conquered by self is, of all things, the most shameful and vile.”  We see this all over the earth, men and women who are conquered by addiction, debt, self pity, unaccountability, and with seemingly no responsibility or ability to dig themselves out of the pit they chose to enter.  Leonardo da Vinci stated, “You will never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself.”  He then went on to say that, “the height of a man’s success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment. … And this law is the expression of eternal justice. He who cannot establish dominion over himself will have no dominion over others.” In other words, how can you hope to lift, inspire, and bless others, if you choose not do do it for yourself?  This is why the Savior stated, "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." (Luke 22:32) Can we expect to see success in life if we are unwilling to overcome weaknesses that confront us? The blessing is we're not on our own.  

Self mastery is associated with our thoughts, actions, appetites, passions, language, and emotions and in most cases it is the struggle of our spirit striving to overcome the weaknesses of our flesh.  President James E. Faust stated that, "Self-mastery is a challenge for every individual... Self-mastery cannot be bought by money or fame. It is the ultimate test of our character. It requires climbing out of the deep valleys of our lives and scaling our own Mount Everest's."  We all face some battle of controlling self.  The issues are too numerous to name, but you're all familiar with what they might be for you. (anger, procrastination, pride, slothfulness, etc. etc. etc.)  Isn't this the great test of our mortal probation, to do all we can to overcome these challenges, to then be proven worthy to return and live with God again?

During your missionary years you have the ability to define your character and truly develop patterns of self mastery that will bless you for the rest of your life.  You determine how hard you work, study, find, and serve with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.  It is the principle of not only coming to understand what we should do (knowledge), but apply it (wisdom). The problem, we are all prone to weakness of body and mind and the question then becomes will we allow our weakness to dominate or will we do all we can and seek divine help along the way.  Consider then a few examples of missionary life where we demonstrate self mastery each day…
Our exercise in self mastery begins every morning at 6:30.  You are tired, fatigued, and your body does not want to get up and exercise.  At that point you have a choice, does the spirit or the flesh win?  Will you be overcome or will you have the willpower to start the day as directed?
Will you have a fruitful personal study?  Will you do it and sit at your desk, or lie on the floor, going through the motions, and giving the appearance of study when your heart is far from it?  
Will you be engaged in companionship study and lesson planning for the well being and progress of your investigators, or will you allow your mind to wander?
Will you get out of the apartment on time and look for ways to serve or will you stay in the comfort of the apartment and wait until early afternoon to go about your efforts?
When your companion is getting on your nerves, do you go quiet and avoid, get upset and lash out, or do you demonstrate self-restraint, patience, kindness, and seek to understand?  Do you have the courage to talk openly and lovingly with your companion or do you just avoid?
Throughout the day are you anxiously engaged, teaching, improving, and focused, or do you let the day simply come and go lost in your own desires and needs?
When you return to the apartment in the evening do you go straight to nightly planning and update the area book or do you succumb to being tired and skip these important activities?
Do you set a goal, make a plan, and work on developing Christlike attributes or do you just hope for the best?  
The list above is short, but you are all faced with the choice of how you serve and what you will become.  In each of these cases we might be tempted to go to the natural man/woman within us and default to the path of least resistance.  This path of course leads to little growth, unfulfilled dreams, and often times regret.  Unfortunately it is the simple areas of self mastery that can hang us up into the future.  Will I study the scriptures and pray daily?  Will I be faithful in my callings, go home/visit teaching, take care of my physical body, attend the temple, make the Sabbath Day a delight?  You will reap what you sow and there is no better time than today to sow personal strength and self control.

President Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy in his book "Love is a Choice" provided a list of what he refers to as the anti-resposibility list or the things people commonly say or do to create excuses as to why they can't master themselves or their circumstances.  I have attached it along with what is described as the "accountability ladder" for you to review.  My point in sharing this with you is to help you avoid those thoughts or common rationalizations that we might use that lead to living below our potential.

So what do you do to gain self mastery?  We are sons and daughters of God, endowed with power, enabled by the Savior's grace, to do and become whatever we choose.  We fall on our knees and wrestle with the Lord in our weakness so he can make us strong. We set personal goals and plans to help drive us, cause us to act, and progress.  We lean on and ask for the support of others where we struggle.  We own up to our weaknesses, poor decisions, ask for forgiveness, drop our pride, and do the best we can.  We recognize when we fall victim to becoming an object vs. an agent and seek to change our ways (repent).  To gain self mastery we ultimately have to give our will to the the only beings that can make us strong and help us overcome, our loving Father in Heaven and Savior.  

My prayer for all of us is that our mission experience will enable us to develop patterns of self mastery.  We have the ability to overcome the natural man/woman as taught by King Benjamin.  The formula he gave us was to yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and become a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and become as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.  Please consider where you can begin to have more self mastery, first as a son or daughter of God, then as a missionary, and finally as a lifelong Disciple of Christ.  Thanks for your goodness, your efforts, and desire to become as the Savior.  We love you!

Mission Update

We have had 96 souls enter the waters of baptism to receive a remission of their sins in 2016! You're doing awesome work and I'm so pleased with our progress as we get better at our Vision to Baptize so that all might qualify to live with the Father and His Son.  Keep your focus on the people, set goals to help them progress, set plans to help make it so, and do all you can to invite all to come unto Christ!  Love ya!

President Hall